Flummoxed!

So, I’m reading an agent blog, looking for whether or not he reps my kind of work, when I see in his archives a post about what he hates to see in queries.

To my astonishment, he asks people not to say science-fiction novel in their query, as it’s the same as saying science-fiction fiction. 0_0

Now, I’ve heard that agents don’t like to see I’m querying my fiction novel, as novels are, by default, fiction. And that if you have a novel that is genre-less (general fiction), you should simply say, I’m querying my novel. So, novel isn’t the word they have the problem with.

In the comments section of this particular blog, helpful readers did point out that in the words science-fiction novel, science-fiction is simply an adjective and saying it is the same as saying fantasy novel or crime novel. His response was something like, my pool, my rules, and he suggesting saying, I’m querying my science-fiction work or project. That’s fine. He can ask for whatever he likes. But he also said, I know many agents who stop reading when they see science-fiction novel.

I would never in a million years have suspected this. It seems so odd to me that this adjective/noun combo would create so many problems. My query letters have always contained the world novel so as not to be confused with graphic novel, screenplay, poetry collection or short-story collection. A science-fiction project could be any damn thing.

So, please tell me, have you ever encountered anything like this before? And those of you who’ve written queries, did you include the word novel after the adjective describing it? Please reassure me that this guy is actually a one-off.

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12 thoughts on “Flummoxed!

  1. I’ve never come across anything like this.

    In this instance, you cannot interchange ‘fiction’ with ‘novel’ since the word ‘fiction’ is a part of ‘science fiction’. For example, you can’t call it a science novel.

    You are right in that it could be any number of science fiction projects, so he’s kind of pushing the point to extremes.

    It’s his party, but I seriously doubt he’s going to reject a query with a killer concept on account of a pet peeve.

    I checked on mine, and I used ‘science fiction romance’, evading the novel part altogether.

    • That might be the way to go, Maria, evading it altogether. It just makes me a little mad to find someone who’s basically a gatekeeper to publishing with such a nit-picky pet peeve that happens to be incorrect as well.

  2. I guess there are different ways to get around this. I’d probably reword the query to something like “Given your interest in science-fiction, would you consider my manuscript, Alien Trees?” or something along that line. Kind of just step around the whole issue to avoid stepping on any toes, I guess.

  3. Oh man, I’d crash and burn on that one! I always think of it as an “SF novel” then spell it all out, so it would be — of course — “science-fiction novel”, although I have done a Maria and called it a “science-fiction romance”. But “work” or “project” makes it sound a little too non-fiction for my liking. Yep, have to avoid it all together.

  4. I’m not sure I’d want to work with him. The people whose blogs I prefer and whom I’d like to work with pretty much say that there is no single thing that will make them stop reading.

    If you call them by the wrong name, they’ll forgive it as long as your description of your work makes them want to read it; that they’ll forgive anything for a good story, but the more mistakes the more compelling the story has to be. I can see people saying they’ll stop reading for bad punctuation or proof that you can’t put together a sentence properly, but nitpicking about a descriptive word?

    Would you really want that person looking at your novel, picking at your every word choice? (If he could use Rogets, Strunk or some book to defend his choice, maybe, but not the my pool, my rules excuse.)

  5. Nope, I’ve never encountered anything like this before! And it starts to feel a bit like a silly game, this querying business with all these little details that we have to be super-duper careful about or the agents will ‘stop reading our queries’.
    Since-fiction is simply the name of that genre so I don’t see anything wrong with saying ‘science fiction novel’ since that is defining your work.

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